12 October 2006


I spent the last trimester of my pregnancy devouring the historical fiction of Fr. Robert Hugh Benson. Superb. They are set in England during the periods of greatest tumult for the Catholic faith, beginning with King Henry VIII and ending on the death of Charles II. Although there are a handful of fictional characters, in the main Fr. Benson attempts historical accuracy. I can't remember the last time I've been so enthralled or inspired by fiction; each novel invariably contains romance, intrigue, treachery, heroism, and, in most, martyrdom. Fr. Campion makes a cameo appearance in Come Rack! Come Rope!, and Mary Tudor is given a sympathetic portrait in The Queen's Tragedy. Oddsfish! (a frequent exclamation of Charles II) remains one of my favorites. It revolves around the King, and most of the more intimate scenes are pure speculation, but it ends in triumph (in the Catholic sense of the term, anyway). There's also The King's Achievement, whose main character, a monk, experiences firsthand Henry VIII's pillaging of his monastery, and whose brother is in the service of Cromwell. By What Authority? focuses on the reign of Elizabeth, and the fate of a priest who crosses her through his fidelity to the Pope. All worth reading.